Free Books: The New Napster?

Ideas and Issues

free_booksNew Orleans Talking to a friend around the campfire in Montana, he blurted out the name of a website that he said allowed you to get almost any book anywhere in print for free electronically.   My buddy referred to the site as the “new Napster for books.” 

Napster, as most will remember, was the rage some years ago particularly among the young who used the Napster service to break the back of the music industry’s business model by allowing folks to get on its servers and “share” digital recordings of songs and albums for free.  The courts eventually put an end to this kind fast and loose infringement of US copyright laws and shut them down; though Sean Parker, one of the co-founders, has certainly had an afterlife as well publicized billionaire.  

I hate to swallow the punch line here, but I immediately forgot the name of the site and am waiting for him to send it along.  

In the meantime though a simple visit with Mr. Google indicates that there are huge numbers of easily available free books in all kinds of subjects and formats that are widely available with a little work.  Getting past the “rip and run” of the old music business for those of us who work and worry about how to bridge the digital divide between the developed and developing world, this seems hopeful progress if there are simple devices available that can take the downloads of e-books.   Certainly, public libraries are increasingly providing this in the USA for example.  There are also a gazillion books that have passed their copyright deadlines, that if the Google and other library scanning programs make progress, could open up a world of information and knowledge for millions.

The biggest problem I see from looking quickly at some of the lists is that we desperately need someone or something to organize the mess of what is out there to separate the wheat from the chaff for potential learners and readers.  Bryan Fraser, our assistant station manager at KABF, talks about DJs with “taste,” meaning people that can pick the gold out of the mountains of music and play it for our listeners.  We almost need the same thing from someone or something with the chops to be able to whittle down the list to a core, usable, and essential library for different people and purposes.

So I’ll get my buddy’s site up as soon as he responses, but just to share the mass of low hanging fruit, here are some suggestions below and these lists by Wendy Powell and Kay Tan don’t even include that claims one million books or with 406457 nonfiction titles alone or of course Google Books which seeks to help folks access the free and buy the others.  On the lists below only Slideshare is on both, but we’ve actually used SlideShare on our websites to post reports and find that after some period of time they “disappear” so be careful there.

From Wendy Boswell, here’s the top 20 list:

  • ReadPrint offers thousands of free books, including novels, poems, fiction, nonfiction, essays, and plays. They were voted one of Time magazine’s best 50 websites in 2010, and for good reason: the site is easy to navigate, and there are over 8000 books here to download for free. The front page offers several different ways to find books, but my personal favorite is browsing through the list of Top Authors; notable picks include Louisa May Alcott, Rudyard Kipling, and Jack London.
  • Check out the most popular titles, special collections, or browse through some covers to see what interests you. ManyBooks offers over 29,000 free ebooks in a wide range of categories, from Adventure to Young Readers. Browse through the most popular downloads, recommendations, and special collections.
  • The Literature Network: This site is organized alphabetically by author. Click on any author’s name, and you’ll see a biography, related links and articles, quizzes, and forums. Most of the literature here is free; some downloads require a small fee.
  • Free Computer Books: Every computer subject and programming language you can think of is represented here. Free books and textbooks, as well as extensive lecture notes, are available.
  • Librivox is a dream come true for audiobook lovers. All the books here are absolutely free, which is good news for those of us who have had to pony up ridiculously high fees for substandard audiobooks. Librivox has many volunteers that work to release quality recordings of classic books, all free for anyone to download. If you’ve been looking for a great place to find free audio books, Librivox is a good place to start.
  • Authorama features a nice selection of books written in HTML and XHTML, which basically means that they are in easily readable format. Most books here are featured in English, but there are quite a few German language texts as well. Books are organized alphabetically by the author’s last name. Authorama offers a good selection of free books from a variety of authors, both current and classic.
  • Project Gutenberg: Project Gutenberg is one of the largest sources for free books on the Web, with over 30,000 free downloadable ebooks available in a wide variety of formats. Project Gutenberg is the oldest (and quite possibly the largest) library on the Web, with literally hundreds of thousands books available for free download. The vast majority of books at Project Gutenberg are released in English, but there are other languages available. If you already know what you are looking for, search the database by author name, title, language, or subjects. You can also check out the top 100 list to see what other people have been downloading.
  • Scribd offers a fascination collection of all kinds of reading materials: presentations, textbooks, popular reading, and much more, all organized by topic. Scribd is one of the Web’s largest sources of published content, with literally millions of documents published every month.
  • International Digital Children’s Library: Browse through a wide selection of high quality children’s literature here. Check out Simple Search to get a big picture of how this library is organized: by age, reading level, length of book, genres, and more.
  • Ebooks and Text Archives: From the Internet Archive; a library of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books.
  • World Public Library: Technically, the World Public Library is NOT free. But for a measly 8.95 a year, you can gain access to hundreds of thousands of books in over one hundred different languages. They also have over one hundred different special collections ranging from American Lit to Western Philosophy. Worth a look. They also have what they call a Give Away Page, which is over two hundred of their most popular titles, audio books, technical books,a and books made into movies. Give the freebies a try, and if you really like their service, then you can choose to become a member and get the whole collection.
  • Questia Public Library: Questia has long been a favorite choice of librarians and scholars for research help. They also offer a world-class library of free books filled with classics, rarities, and textbooks. More than 5000 books are available for download here, alphabetized both by title and by author.
  • Wikisource: Online library of user-submitted and maintained content. At the time of this writing, over 200,000 pieces of content are available to read.
  • Wikibooks: Wikibooks is an open collection of (mostly) textbooks. Subjects range from Computing to Languages to Science; you can see all that Wikibooks has to offer in Books by Subject. Be sure to check out the Featured Books section, which highlights books that the Wikibooks community at large believes to be “the best of what Wikibooks has to offer, and should inspire people to improve the quality of other books”.
  • Bibliomania: Bibliomania gives readers over 2000 free classics, including literature book notes, author bios, book summaries, and study guides. Books are presented in chapter format.
  • The Open Library: There are over one million books here, all free, all available in PDF, ePub, Daisy, DjVu and ASCII text. You can search for ebooks specifically by checking the “show only ebooks” box under the main search box. Once you’ve found an ebook, you will see that it will be available in a variety of formats.
  • Sacred Texts: Sacred Texts contains the Web’s largest collection of free books about religion, mythology, folklore and the esoteric in general.
  • Free eBooks: Free eBooks offers a wonderfully diverse variety of books, ranging from Advertising to Health to Web Design. Standard memberships (yes, you do have to register in order to download anything, but it only takes a minute) are free and allow members to access unlimited eBooks in HTML, but only five books every month in the PDF and TXT formats. A VIP membership here gives you unlimited access to any book you want, in any format.
  • Slideshare: Slideshare is an online forum where anyone can upload a digital presentation on any subject. Millions of people utilize SlideShare for research, sharing ideas, and learning about new technologies. SlideShare supports documents and PDF files, and all these are available for free download (after free registration).
  • The Online Books Page: Maintained by the University of Pennsylvania, this page lists over one MILLION free books free available for download in dozens of different formats.

From Kay Tan an even longer list:

1.     FreeBookSpot

FreeBookSpot is an online source of free ebooks download with 4485 FREE E-BOOKS in 96 categories which up to 71,97 GB.

You can search and download free books in categories like scientific, engineering, programming, fiction and many other books. No registration is required to download free e-books.

2.     4eBooks

4eBooks has a huge collection of computer programming ebooks. Each downloadable ebook has a short review with a description. You can find over thousand of free ebooks in every computer programming field like .Net, Actionscript, Ajax, Apache and etc.

3.     Free-eBooks

Free-eBooks is an online source for free ebook downloads, ebook resources and ebook authors. Besides free ebooks, you also download free magazines or submit your own ebook.

You need to become a Free-EBooks.Net member to access their library. Registration is free.

4.     ManyBooks

ManyBooks provides free ebooks for your PDA, iPod or eBook Reader. You can randomly browse for a ebook through the most popular titles, recommendations or recent reviews for visitors. There are 21,282 eBooks available here and they’re all free!


5.     GetFreeEBooks

GetFreeEBooks is a free ebooks site where you can download free books totally free. All the ebooks within the site are legal downloadable free ebooks.

6.     FreeComputerBooks

FreeComputerBooks consists of a huge collection of free online Computer, Programming, Mathematics, Technical Books, Lecture Notes and Tutorials. It is very well categorized by topics, with 12 top level categories, and over 150 sub-categories.

7.     FreeTechBooks

FreeTechBooks lists free online computer science, engineering and programming books, textbooks and lecture notes, all of which are legally and freely available over the Internet. Throughout FreeTechBooks, other terms are used to refer to a book, such as ebook, text, document, monogram or notes.

8.     Scribd

Scribd, the online document sharing site which supports Word, Excel, PowerPoint, PDF and other popular formats. You can download a document or embed it in your blog or web page.

9.     Globusz

Globusz is a unique ePublishing house, specializing in free eBook downloads. They also provide an excellent Star Rating Showcase for new and evolving authors.

10.  KnowFree

KnowFree is a web portal where users are able to exchange freely e-books, video training and other materials for educational purposes and self-practice.

11.  OnlineFreeEBooks

OnlineFreeEBooks provides links to various ebooks (mostly in pdf) spanning in 9 big categories which are: Automotive Ebooks, Business Ebooks, Engineering Ebooks, Gadget Ebooks, Hardware Ebooks, Health & Medical Ebooks, Hobbies Ebooks, Programming & Technology Ebooks, Sport & Martial Art Ebooks.

12.  MemoWare

MemoWare has a unique collection of thousands of documents (databases, literature, maps, technical references, lists, etc.) specially formatted to be easily added to your PalmOS device, Pocket PC, Windows CE, EPOC, Symbian or other handheld device.

13.  BluePortal

14.  OnlineComputerBooks

OnlineComputerBooks contains details about free computer books, free ebooks, free online books and sample chapters related to Information Technology, Computer Science, Internet, Business, Marketing, Maths, Physics and Science which are provided by publishers or authors.

15.  SnipFiles

SnipFiles offers you free ebooks and software legally by brought or attained PLR, resale or master rights to all the products on their page.

16.  BookYards

BookYards is a web portal in which books, education materials, information, and content will be freely to anyone who has an internet connection.

17.  The Online Books Page

The Online Books Page is a Listing over 30,000 free books on the Web.

18.  AskSam Ebooks

AskSam Ebooks has a collection of free e-books like Shakespeare, and assorted legal & governmental texts.

19.  Baen Free Library

Baen Free Library is an online library of downloadable science fiction novels.

20.  eBookLobby

Free ebooks in eBookLobby are divided into different categories. Categorys range from business, art, computing and education. Select the category appropriate to the e-book.

Even More . . .

Free Ebook Download Links

Free Ebook Download Links intends to provide links for downloading books available free in different format.The books are published online by their authors for free viewing and printing for non-commercial proposes only.

·  eBoook3000

A library of free ebook downloads with over 17 categories available.

·  SlideShare

SlideShare is the best way to share your presentations with the world. Let your ideas reach a broad audience. Share publicly or privately. Add audio to create a webinar.

·  PDF Search Engine

PDF Search Engine is a book search engine search on sites, forums, message boards for pdf files. You can find and download a tons of e-books by searching it or browsing through the full directory.

·  eSnips

eSnips is the one place where you can share anything you want, about any topic: your thoughts, your photos, your music, your videos, your flash files, stuff you find on the web, and many other media types. You can search and download for free documents in eSnips as well.

·  Book Gold Mine

Book Gold Mine serves a large collection of quality e-books, lectures, notes, and other kinds of documents at no cost to the user.

·  eBooks-Space

Free downloadable ebooks for computer IT, programming lauguages, software development, tutorial, database design in PDF-CHM file format.

·  drebooks

The vision of the founder was to provide an online space where Medical Students and Doctors could gather to share and collaborate their information and ideas about medical books.

·  E-Books Directory

E-Books Directory is a daily growing list of freely downloadable ebooks, documents and lecture notes found all over the internet. You can submit and promote your own ebooks, add comments on already posted books or just browse through the directory below and download anything you need

·  UFindBook

UFindBook offers free ebooks download more than 200,000 titles categorized in format of pdf, chm, html.

·  Books-PDF

Books-PDF provides free ebooks for .Net, 3D animation, accounting, AJAX, algorithms, ASP.NET, AutoCAD, C#, C++, Database and etc.

·  PDFoo was developed for free services to provide resources of PDF files. All files based on popular section and it short by number of the most download by people. Browse through the category section will lead you find the PDF files that you are looking for. Every time people download, or system will counting how many times it has download by people.

·  Free Ebook Down

Free Ebook Down offers over 10,000 free ebooks in 22 categories.

·  Free-Ebooks-Canada

Free-Ebooks-Canada searches for? free ebooks that either have PLR (Private Label Rights), MRR (Master Resell Rights), giveaway rights or personal use only. PLR( Private Label Rights)and MRR (Master Resell Rights)can be sold and modified to the extent of ebooks resell license. No Matter whether PLR, MRR or give-away any book can be used for personal information.

·  eBooks Download Free

ebooks download free is One of the biggest books sharing websites that contains large collection of pdf and chm books free download you can download free books in many categories: Computer books like free php ebooks to download, ADO.NET, AJAX, java, ajax, photoshop, javascript Exchange Server, Sharepoint , ASP.NET XML free books downloads, c# and c+ books.

·  PDFGeni

PDFGeni is a dedicated pdf search engine for PDF ebooks, sheets, forms and documents.


A collection of general interest and technical ebooks.

·  eBook-X

eBook-x lets you to download popular free ebooks, classical free ebooks, new releases and more.

·  Spotbit provides paperless solution to publishing industry which end result is an E-Book make available in a unique and standalone digital format that is different from most formats available in the current market.

·  Ebook Share

eBook Share provides free ebooks download in torrent format.You can search for an ebook in categories like magazine, programming, graphic design, networking, business and investing and the others.